How to Care For a Desert Rose Plant

desert rose pink flowers
Desert Rose in Garden

When I was given this flowering plant as a gift I was told it was a Plumeria. After seeing this same plant at the local Home Depot store, I discovered it was a Desert Rose. But before I knew what it was, I had taken it out of the original pot and put it into a sunny location in the backyard.

Sun is exactly what this flowering plant craves. But the word “desert” caused me to believe less water was better. The truth is that this plant did well with and without water.

Today I am watering it frequently, and it is thriving! So much for the “desert” title.

At the time I planted it, we were have a long dry spell here in Florida. The Desert Rose did well. I avoided watering it when I watered the hibiscus next to it, and the plant even sent out new buds, which you can see blooming at the bottom of the stalk.

Florida is a tropical place, but some areas are more tropical than others.  I am in the central part of the state and it can get very cold (below freezing) here overnight in winter.  I was afraid the Rose would die, so I ended up digging it up and putting it into a (bright orange) pot.

pink desert rose in orange pot
Dug up and potted

The Secret to Growing a Desert Rose in Florida

Sunlight is most important, with plenty of heat. The plant can deal with lack of water (I’ve tried that), but it also loves a daily spray with the hose.

These plants develop a very thick “stem” or caudex (see them in the photo below).  This is the part that holds in the water to keep the plant thriving in drought conditions.  But apparently it does not need to grow in a desert to thrive.

Keep it in a pot so it can come inside when temperatures drop – some sites say below 60 degrees and others say 40. Just bring it inside when it gets cold to be safe.

Pictures of My Desert Rose and How It Has Grown

As I mentioned above, this plant was a gift to me shortly after I moved into my house in 2016. I’ve had the plant for nearly 2 years now.

After a period of dormancy during the winter, suddenly lots of buds began to show up.  New little leaves began to grow from the base of the stem. This was about the time when aphids were appearing on all my plants outside. A daily check, and I would spray the buggers off with the hose. I let the lady bugs take care of most of the aphids in my garden, but the Rose is not near the vegetables.

desert rose
Blooming Desert Rose, after winter
desert rose plant in pot
Give it sunshine!  It is slow growing.

In the photo below, lots of greenery is showing on the plant, which has stopped blooming for now.  It will take this time to put effort into growing stems and leaves before it begins to flower again.
Right now I am not sure when that will be.  This plant flowers more than once a year, so I expect to see buds forming soon.

green leaves on desert rose
August 2018, glossy green leaves on my desert rose.  I spray it with the hose every day.

More Information About The Desert Rose

The Desert Rose is similar in appearance to the plumeria / frangipani tree and Oleander.  The unique aspect is the thick stems. The Oleander does grow in Florida, but I have not seen Plumeria trees. Maybe they will grow in the southern part of the state.  For more information about growing the desert rose elsewhere, read my friend’s article: Desert Rose Adenium Plant for Gardening and Bonsai.

Like the Oleander plant, the Rose contains poisonous sap.   It may not be a good choice as a houseplant for families with young kids for this reason.

The South Florida Plant Guide site has more info.